I know what you’re thinking. This is not about that. It’s about my first time in Europe. I was 19. It was the 70’s and I went with my best friend. We grew up together and are more like sisters than friends. We are total opposites but can ofinish each other’s sentences. We were extensions of each other’s family. We even went on some of their vacations with them.
We can drive each other crazy, but I know that no matter where I am, what trouble I might be in, what I may need, this woman always, always, has my back. And I have hers. We’ve now had a lifetime together and although she always played by the norm and I the opposite, she looks back and is thankful for all the stuff I pushed her to do. Or so she says. Forty years later, she can still revert back to being a teenager, saying, “You made me do…” We laugh like hell.
We were kids with backpacks, traveling at a time when other American kids were flooding into Europe too. She had an itinerary. I barely knew what the word meant, as it wasn’t any part of my vocabulary.
She dragged me to see every frigging church, museum, basilica and famous landmark in England. Wait, I thought I just mentioned her saying what I pushed her to do. I’m re-thinking this now. She made me go to Piccadilly Circus where some man in the crowd pinched my ass. “Hey, hey,” I yelled and when I turned around no one looked me in the eye. I thought we had to wait until Rome for this.
We went to Chelsea. It was summer and we wore short culottes and white go-go boots. A big trend then, for those who aren’t familiar. We bought suede leather jackets and in addition, I got a suede mini skirt for myself. We ended up dragging this shit all over Europe with us. What a sight. Two Jews with backpacks and jackets on hangers.
By the end of our trip, my backpack was so heavy that when I was trying to board a bus with high steps and a steep incline, I almost tipped over. I was getting flustered after the second attempt . Out of nowhere, I felt a hard push forward against my backpack. I was up and over. Did I mention she always had my back ?
Amsterdam was next with police in Volkswagens and long hair. Every day in the newspaper, they quoted the price of hash and grass. Yes, it was legal there, along with prostitution. We went to Volendam to buy delft vases and earrings. If you can believe this, I just found those pair of earrings a year ago. Still have them.
She got this dumb watch for her boyfriend that she had to wind everyday, because the day and date were in Dutch. She was nervous that if she didn’t do this, he’d never know what day it was. Like he could read Dutch anyway. I had to wake up to that stupid winding sound every morning to hear her saying,”Zondag, Maandag.” That’s Sunday and Monday and so on. I had to hear the days of the week in Dutch every day, for the rest of the trip.
We stayed in youth hostels. Of course, what we spent on gifts for ourselves and family, it could have been the Ritz, but we were kids. It was a place to crash and bed bugs were non-existent. Besides, we had sleeping sacks. They were very light, easy to pack and were the shape of a sleeping bag, but almost a sheer white and probably cotton.
We landed in Paris on Bastille day. Great timing. This wasn’t the era of reservations. You just had a list of hostels and went. We walked out of the train station at 9:00 at night to horns blowing, cars honking and electricity in the air. My friend said she knew French. Well, compared to me, she did, but that didn’t mean she was going to take over Berlitz. There wasn’t a cab in sight. We, or actually she, asked these guys in a convertible if they could give us a ride into the center of the city to find a place to sleep.
Within a few minutes, I noticed the lights getting dimmer, not stronger. “Hey genius,” I leaned over to say, “they’re taking us somewhere but it’s not into the city. What exactly did you say to them ?” She thought for a moment. “Oh shit, I think I mixed up my words. I think I told them to take us with them for a place to sleep.” I told her to unmix her words fast or we were going to end up somewhere in a vineyard picking grapes the next day.
We were dropped at a hostel. It was full. Another one. Full. I then said we should try a bed and breakfast. We tried several. All full. We sat at an outdoor cafe trying to go over the list of hostels again and she pulled out her bible, Arthur Frommer. These men (or boys, maybe a little older than we were) started to talk to us. Malek was cute and seemed nice enough, so I told him of our plight.
When we got to his apartment, my friend pulled out her sleep sack. I told her I thought it was insulting, but she said she didn’t care. The three of us went to bed in his one big bed, with me in the middle. I was dead asleep and then I wasn’t. In the middle of something, I woke up to his passionate kissing.
Can you imagine how close you have to be to someone to be having sex next to them ? I mean, right next to them. Although there is always one universal language when it comes to matters of love and desire, he decided to complicate things by speaking French to me. It may have sounded beautiful and romantic, but I couldn’t understand a damn word. “Hey,” I whispered to her, “Wake up, I need you to translate.” She said, “Did you really think I was still sleeping ?” So it was tres convenient. While he was talking during sex, I had a translator by my side. Literally.
I landed in Zürich with a bladder infection. That will fix me for having sex with a French man. I went to Kanton hospital where I had to pee in a martini glass. What class ! Then they gave me pills and I was good to go. We found our way to a hostel there. On the first night, I was sitting on the ground outside with a bunch of other Americans. A guy walked up to me and said, “Want to smoke a joint with me ?” I looked closer as I got up and the glare from the light had dulled. “Hey, I know you, We went to camp together.” We both laughed. He was one of the most popular boys at camp too, but never gave me a second look. Until then. Camp was five or six years back and as we say, I was all grown up now.
A group of us went out that night. Because it was a hostel, it had rules and we had a curfew. If we didn’t comply, we would have had to pay a fine or could get kicked out. We were concerned about this, but one of the guys with us had been there for several days. He told us not to worry because he had done this many times before and knew a way around it.
So an hour and a half after our curfew, we were all taken to the side of the building. One guy opened the side window to the boy’s section. He jumped in. One by one, one guy helped us up through the window, while the other was there to assist in our landing. All 16 of us got through, went to our established spots and went to bed. No fines, no eviction.
We took a train from Zürich to Rome and I have saved the best for last. At least I think so. This is not a ploy to keep you in suspense, although I hope I do, but it is a long and involved and detailed story. It is late. And that is why I am saving this for tomorrow’s post when I am well rested and hopefully you are too. Good Night and
Till next we meet ……